published on January 19, 2017 - 4:35 PM
Written by The Business Journal Staff

A study conducted by the Center of Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University, in partnership with The California Endowment, has found a surge in the death rates for middle-aged white people living in the Central Valley’s Kern, Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties.

While death rates among black, Hispanic, and Asian adults ages 40-64 years have fallen by 16-20 percent across the state over the last 20 years, the report states that the death rate among California whites of the same age has only dropped 5 percent.

In the same 20-year period, death rates among whites in the four-county Central Valley region have increased by 11 percent.

Dr. Tony Iton, senior vice president with The California Endowment, said recent economic struggles and drug use could partially be to blame.

“Many American are really struggling to find opportunity in this new economy. In some regions of the country, a lot of people are losing hope, and turning to alcohol, drugs, and even suicide,” Iton said in a statement.

The data, Iton said, suggests that whites in these regions would be particularly vulnerable to any reductions in health care access.

“In the wake of these findings, this is the worst possible time to reduce access to health care or any health care safety net programs,” Iton said. “Rather than dismantling our already fragile social compact, we need to be strengthening it so that all people have a meaningful shot at opportunity and good health.”

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